Does DaRoyce Mosley Deserve to Die?

Raised in Kilgore’s poorest black neighborhood, he was an honors graduate with a bright future—until he was convicted of killing four whites. But the case is still hotly disputed, and the question remains…Does DaRoyce Mosley Deserve to Die?

IN THE EAST TEXAS TOWN OF KILGORE, KATIE’S WAS JUST ANOTHER beer joint perched next to Texas Highway 135. Inside, there were a few tables the size of hubcaps, a small pool table, a jukebox, and some Dallas Cowboys posters tacked to the plywood walls. The customers were white working-class people. Most of the men who stopped in for the $1 bottled beer were oil-field workers still trying to make a living from the dregs of what was once the largest oil field in the world. They arrived in unwashed pickup trucks. They wore shirts that had their first names sewn above their pockets. Their wives or girlfriends often came along, sitting at separate tables, smoking cigarettes and calling each other “honey.” The owner, a rusty-voiced woman named Katie Moore who had been operating East Texas honky-tonks for more than thirty years, liked to call Katie’s a “quiet little family place.” But on the night of July 21, 1994, Sandra Cash, the 32-year-old barmaid who was paid $30 a night to serve the beer, crawled to the phone and made a 911 call. “Please help me,” she rasped. “I am choking.”

A young Kilgore police officer, one of the first to arrive at Katie’s, was so horrified by what he saw that for months afterward he needed counseling. Behind the bar, Cash was barely alive, her spinal cord severed by as many as six shots that had been fired into her. The four customers who had been at Katie’s that night were crumpled on the floor, each one shot in the head. Patricia Colter, a 54-year-old Wal-Mart employee, and her 44-year-old husband, Duane, who worked at a Kilgore company that built ceramic toilet fixtures, were closest to the front door, face down, blood from their heads seeping into the carpet. Alvin “Buddy” Waller, a 54-year-old oil-well worker, was lying a few feet away with a pool cue in his hand. He had been shot once in the leg, once in the back of the head, and once through the left eye. Because of the gunpowder on his face, investigators knew that the killer had stuck the gun right up to Waller’s eye and pulled the trigger. Luva Congleton, a 68-year-old retiree, had crawled under the pool table to hide. The killer had walked to the pool table, leaned down, and shot her. The only item missing from Katie’s was a gray fishing tackle box that Cash used to keep the bar receipts. It held $308.

Throughout the night and into the next morning, officers and agents arrived from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); the Texas Rangers; the Department of Public Safety’s mobile crime laboratory; two sheriff’s departments; and the Kilgore Police Department. The mayor came. The local press showed up too. Describing Patricia Colter in her younger years, a reporter for the Kilgore News Herald  wrote, “[She] looked like she could have gone to Hollywood and become a movie star.” Katie’s regulars stood behind the yellow police tape and told anyone who would listen that the killer or killers had to have come from Goat Hill, a poor black neighborhood just down the highway. “Crack city,” one called it. “Nigger heaven,” said another.

Two days later, the police announced they had found the killer: nineteen-year-old Goat Hill resident DaRoyce Mosley, a former honors student at Kilgore High School, member of the student council, and starter on the basketball team who had gone on to Kilgore College. Tall and smooth-skinned, with a dazzling, broad smile, DaRoyce was one of the few black teenagers whom any Kilgore resident knew by name. “He was just about the first kid to cross the racial lines in Kilgore, which is saying a lot for a town that’s still got some Old South in it,” said his friend William Linn, a former high school classmate who is white. “I mean, it’s no secret that whites and blacks here keep their distance from one another. But DaRoyce made a point of making white friends. He kept saying that he wanted to be successful and that he didn’t want to be stuck in his part of town.”

DaRoyce’s arrest—and the district attorney’s decision to seek the death penalty—was unfathomable to many Kilgore residents. This was a kid, people said over and over, who talked about becoming a doctor or a lawyer. “I’d have called him studious,” said former Kilgore mayor Bob Barbee. “ ‘Respectful’ is the word I would always use to describe him,” added Kathy McMillan, a schoolteacher whose son was one of DaRoyce’s closest friends. “He’d come over to spend the night here, and he’d always carry on an intelligent conversation with us in this very gentle voice.”

But after an all-night interrogation, DaRoyce had signed a confession in which he admitted that he had agreed to accompany his 31-year-old uncle, Ray Don Mosley, on a robbery along with Marcus Smith, a 16-year-old Goat Hill teenager with a juvenile record. DaRoyce said that although he had tried several times that night to back out of the robbery, his uncle Ray Don, one of the most feared criminals in the Goat Hill neighborhood, persuaded him to come inside the bar. “I had never done anything bad before, and I felt like doing something bad,” DaRoyce said in the confession. After they walked in, he said, Ray Don shot Sandra Cash. “The people looked at me and it scared me and I shot a lady at a table,” DaRoyce said. He then said Ray Don pointed a gun at him and ordered him to kill everyone else or be shot himself.

For the police, the case was open and shut. But plenty of Kilgore’s citizens were convinced that the confession was not the truth. DaRoyce’s friends insisted that he hated guns: When he had gone along with them on camping trips, he wouldn’t hold a gun, let alone shoot one. A psychiatrist and a psychologist who arrived sep-arately to interview Da-Royce

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...

Most Read

  • Viewed
  • Past:
  • 1 week